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Plant writings, gardening thoughts & observations of Paul Hervey - Brookes, Award Winning Garden Designer & Plantsman.
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Saturday, 28 November 2009

Brilliant even on the darkest winter day.

Whilst working at the nursery today I was struck by two things, firstly the cold silvery light and threat of darkening clouds rumbling overhead and the cheery almost diffident brazenness of a Coronilla in full flower.

Praised by Vita Sackville - West as ‘Flowering continuously between those two great feasts of the Church - a sort of hyphen between the Birth and the Resurrection," and "its persistence throughout the dreary months".  This little shrub works wonders in the winter garden.

(Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Citrina') Native to Portugal it was first introduced to Britain in 1569 and although never widely available has always been valued.  Victorian’s would often grow it in cold greenhouses, giving us a clue that even although our climate is warmer today Coronilla still needs some protection if it is to be grown outside.  A dry sunny spot is best.

Provided then that you have found it a lovely little niche of shelter and the winter sun comes out Coronilla will reward you with clusters of bright yellow pea - like flowers with a delicate faint scent of narcissus.  The flowers are held in clusters of up to 15 and have something of a Galega about them.

(Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Variegata') The plant itself is evergreen and a member of the leguminosae (or to please nomenclature standardisers, Fabaceae) family, it forms a matt of roots and is used in Portugal on banks to reduce soil erosion.  Its growth tends to be a little be way-ward and just like the officinalis galega’s tends to make its own loose shaggy mound.  The leaves are very attractive having a grey shade which harmonises with our English light.

(Coronilla valentina) Looking at my plant today at the nursery I was struck by its incredible vigour this year.  Last winter was colder and dryer, to this point, in the Cotswolds but as it has been relatively warm and wet so the Coronilla  has put on a fine burst of growth.  This although welcome means we will be taking extra cuttings next year, not only for sale but also because like many transported Mediterranean plants it will lose vigour and become somewhat woody.

If I have sold the idea of this little treasure to you, don’t rush out and buy straight forward Coronilla valentina.  It tends to be a bit brassy and brash, theres nothing refined or subtle about this form.  The best is Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Citrina' with its soft grey - green leaves and bright clear yellow flowers its an eye catcher but one which you will want to look at again.


Anonymous said...

Once again a magical description, it really speaks of knowing your stuff!!

I read your blog regularly and only wish I could come to your nursery, but its a long trip from Hungary!

Paul Hervey-Brookes said...

Thank you, I am glad you enjoy reading the posts I make about plants. Plants and the design space are what interest's me. In Hungary there was a great nursery called Orioci Nursery, is this still open? They had a fantastic selection.
All the best, Paul.

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